Harnessing Your Competitive Spirit to Spur Your Goals

In many situations in life – especially within a company or within a family – co-operation is a much more powerful principle than competition.

We all have a competitive instinct or drive, though, and many games make the most of this to ramp up the level of fun, excitement and involvement. (Sports, multi-player computer games, and board games all have “winners” and “losers”.)

As well as enjoying being competitive in game and play situations, we can use our natural competitive bent to give ourselves an edge when we’re trying to make gains in our personal life.

I’m going to give just three examples, but I’m sure you can come up with more areas of your life to apply this to (let’s hear them in the comments!)

Eating More Healthily

Perhaps you and your partner, or you and your friend, have tried out various healthy eating or weight-loss plans in the past. More likely than not, these haven’t lasted too long. One of you feels low on will-power, says “Forget it, I’m having a slice of cake!” – and the other person caves in too.

It could go very differently if you introduced an element of healthy competitiveness. I’d caution against competing on something like actual weight lost, as this is influenced by factors such as metabolism, gender and how overweight you were to begin with. Similarly, don’t compete on how far you can both run, or how heavy the weights you can lift are.

Instead, set yourself some competitive goals to reach like:

  • Who can hit five portions of fruit-and-veg a day, every day, for a week?
  • Who can go for a week without chocolate (or alcohol/cheese/etc…)
  • Who can stick to their planned exercise sessions for a month?
  • …and so on.

You get the idea. Compete on things which are under your direct control. You’ll be amazed how this can really boost your will-power: knowing that the other person is heading off for their gym session can get you up off the sofa and raring to go – you don’t want to lose!

Saving Money

You might want to do this with a spouse, friend or colleague. The idea is to see who can spend the least or save the most over a period of time. As with eating healthily or losing weight, compete on things which involve meeting targets that you’ve agreed with one another (you don’t necessarily need to have exactly the same targets).

For example:

  • Who can go for a week without buying any food out?
  • Who can last a whole weekend without spending money?
  • How long can you manage without spending a cent on entertainment?
  • Who can meet their savings goal for three months running?

As with healthy eating, this can turn something that might otherwise seem like hard work into something fun. Trent writes about this in Making Frugality a Game on The Simple Dollar (a personal finance blog), saying:

If you can turn frugality into a mutual challenge, you can turn something that you might otherwise view as drudgery into something quite fun.

Writing a Novel

There’s an often-quoted adage that “everyone has at least one book in them” – and you may well feel that’s true for yourself. A lot of people have a long-cherished ambition to write a novel, but they never manage to get around to it – or they get started and quickly run out of steam.

Back in 2007, I took part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where participants take on the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. You “win” simply by reaching the word count: it’s an easy measure, and no-one’s going to complain about the quality of your writing, or say that what you’ve written isn’t very novel-shaped.

The desire to get your name on the winners’ list may be enough for you, but if you want to take the competition to a new level, get your friends involved. I wrote alongside @NickMB and @pddluke, and there was a lot of friendly but determined (certainly on my part!) competition.

(I “won”, by the way, pipping them both to the 50,000 word post ;-))

Those are just three big goals which many people have: all of which could be achieved faster (and even more enjoyably!) with a bit of good-natured competition. What goals do you have that you’re not progressing towards as fast as you’d like? Who might you challenge to a competition?

Learn How To Get That Competitve Edge Here!

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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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